The popular Valiant Comics’ character, Bloodshot, comes alive on the screen in the shape of a perfectly cast Vin Diesel.
US Marine Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) was killed in action and reanimated using nanotechnology, investing him with enhanced strength and instantaneous regenerative powers. The company behind his resurrection, Rising Spirit Technologies (RST) – headed by Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) – also controls his memories and consequently, Ray doesn’t know what is real and what has been implanted.
“He’s a badass soldier with unique abilities due to the nanites in his blood, but what’s fascinating about the character is that he’s motivated by something we’ve all been motivated by – the love he can’t forget,” explains Diesel. “And what’s tragic about the character is how that love is manipulated into betrayal.”
Valiant Comics is renowned for presenting superheroes that are simply ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations, and it was this grounded and vulnerable aspect that appealed to Diesel.
“I’ve never seen a character like this – someone who can be focused exclusively on the mission, but you in the audience are feeling for him, because you know that the company is exploiting him. His motives are good, so you just want to see him get what he wants.
“I feel that anyone can identify with feeling manipulated. As we watch the news in our daily lives there are so many moments that we’re feeling force-fed or being manipulated. I like the idea of a hero with powers whose real battle is against that.
“If you ask guys in the military who their favourite comic book character is, it’s Bloodshot,” he adds. “Ray’s core values are the core values of anyone that’s ever served.
Producer Neal H. Moritz notes the difference between Bloodshot and other superheroes is that he’s more complex, complicated, and more emotional. “For so much of the journey, he’s not sure if he’s doing good or if he’s doing bad – there’s incredible internal conflict in his character. And Vin is the perfect person to play that, because Vin is internal – he agonises over every decision about what makes a character great. So much of what makes him such a good actor and such a great action hero is organic to the Bloodshot character.”
Director David S. F. Wilson, making his feature debut with Bloodshot, adds: “This is a completely different character from anything Vin has ever played before. He is obviously as physically formidable as Vin’s other characters, but from an emotional standpoint, he is very vulnerable… and he’s broken. Vin was genuinely excited about articulating that, so I knew he’d be perfect for the role.”
Ultimately, however, it was Diesel’s young son that convinced him to take the part. “I’m a firm believer that some of the best wisdom comes from the innocence of children,” the actor says. “The first meeting that I had for this project, I brought my son along. And at the end of the meeting he said, ‘Daddy, you are Bloodshot,’ and that was enough for me to move the family to South Africa and commit to it wholeheartedly.
“That’s the second time he’s done that,” he adds with a smile. “When Marvel sent over a whole bunch of superheroes, my son was the only one in the room who pointed to the tree. And I looked at him and said, ‘Really?’ And that turned out to be a delightful choice.”
At the heart of the movie is the unconventional love story that develops between Bloodshot and KT (Eiza Gonzalez), who has been similarly enhanced with a mechanical respiratory device after suffering an injury during service.
“It’s not a love story per se, it’s an unusual dynamic,” Gonzalez explains. “There’s a scene in the water that’s like a metaphor for what it is – there’s always like glass between them and they can’t fully be themselves. It’s tragic in a very Romeo and Juliet kind of way. There are circumstances in the movie that cause them to be not completely there for each other. What’s lovely about the relationship is that it’s platonic in a way that comes through the humanity of it.”
Then there is ex-Navy SEAL Jimmy Dalton, played by Outlander star Sam Heughan – a long way from the Scottish highlands. Having lost his legs in an IED explosion, Dalton has been fitted with bionic limbs and an exoskeleton with a second pair of metallic arms that gives him a formidable advantage.
“I jumped at the chance to do something different and this character is so much fun to play,” says the actor who is also a sometime marathon runner. “The action and physical side was definitely a draw.”
Heughan observes that although Bloodshot pushes technology to the extreme, it’s not so far removed from the kind of technology that is restoring abilities to today’s wounded soldiers. “Dalton is obviously a product of this technology, but I don’t believe it’s that futuristic,” he says. “It’s very much based in reality and the now.”
Wilson concurs that Bloodshot represents concepts that may not be too far away from reality – for better or worse. “Obviously we’re already seeing people with advanced prosthetics. Right now, those prosthetics are still inferior to human limbs – but the day will come when they’re superior. You’ll be able to buy strength. What’s more terrifying is when you can buy intelligence, because we’ll be defined by what we can afford. There’s a term for it – ‘transhumanism’ – where we’re able to alter ourselves beyond the physical and neurological limits we’re born with. And those are some of the questions [raised in] the film.”